Time for the Piano Trio

Here in Spain everyone celebrates the Christmas Season all the way up until the Epiphany on January 6th. Nevertheless, instead of letting Christmas drag on, I strictly follow the day-after-Thanksgiving to December 25th schedule. So while I will keep the Christmas decorations up until January 1st (maybe even until January 6th if my wife gets her way), starting yesterday, December 26th, there is no more Christmas music until Black Friday 2011.

As a result, for the past two days I have been listening to a random selection of my favorite Jazz piano trios (piano, bass and drums), a good transitional genre for what’s left of the holiday spirit: Ahmad Jamal, Andrew Hill, Barry Harris, Bill Evans, Bobby Timmons, Brad Medlhau, Bud Powell, Cecil Taylor, Chick Corea, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Herbie Nichols, Horace Silver, Jaki Byard, Kenny Kenny Drew, Kenny Drew Jr., McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Phineas Newborn Jr., Red Garland, Sonny Clark, Thelonious Monk, Tommy Flanagan, and Wynton Kelly.

And of these, Herbie Nichols always surprises me both because of his virtuosity and lack of notoriety. For anyone interested in Jazz piano, I definitely recommend Herbie Nichols’ The Complete Blue Note Recordings (with Al McKibbon or Teddy Kotick on bass and Art Blakey or Max Roach on drums).

As a farewell note to my favorite Christmas tunes, I would like to recognize the perpetual greatness of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (also a piano trio album). They just don’t make music like that any more. And a special mention goes to the quasi-Christmas song “The River” from Herbie Hancock’s 2007 Joni Mitchell tribute album with vocalist Corinne Bailey Rae. Although I don’t ice skate, I do love the imagery from the song: a long frozen river to fly away on . . .

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